Why Upgrade to SQL Server 2008
With the recent release of SQL Server 2008, getting up to speed on the technology is necessary from a number of different perspectives. From your view of the world what are the drivers from a business, technology and career perspective? Have you heard insight or opinions related to employers view of SQL Server 2008? Do you have any suggestions when talking to management about moving to SQL Server 2008?
Making a compelling reason to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 may be difficult in some organizations and an expectation in others. The same is true for new development with SQL Server 2008. What is necessary is to understand where your organization or specific projects fall into this spectrum. Depending on the expectations at this level, they can drive a great deal of the decision to upgrade or perform new development. If you are faced with a situation where the upgrade has not been a consideration, try to learn about the decision making factors to understand how the technology is perceived by the business, before jumping in too far.
When making the case to upgrade or perform new development on SQL Server 2008 with your management team, be sure to speak their language. They might not understand all of the intricacies of SQL Server and they may not have the time to research the items you bring forth, so consider these aspects when speaking to them:
- Operating costs - Based on how your organization does business, research the SQL Server 2008 features then outline aspects of SQL Server 2008 that will reduce operating costs or improve business\process efficiency. Here are a few examples, although many more exist:
- Resource Governor can be used to split the resources across the SQL Server 2008 instance for multiple business, application or processing needs extending the life of the hardware platform
- Data encryption provides the ability to natively protect your sensitive data to put your customers at ease
- Auditing is also natively available to ensure your applications are meeting internal, industry and contractual agreements
- Microsoft support - Thus far I have been very surprised that support from Microsoft alone has not driven customers to upgrade from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2008. Based on the two entries below, it appears as if Microsoft will continue to support customers, but the support is based on a customer support agreement or an extended support agreement, which may be more costly than working through the upgrade or ensuring new systems are developed with SQL Server 2008. Based on your agreement with Microsoft find out about these costs and determine what the financial impacts are for upgrading or not. Please reference this information from Microsoft concerning SQL Server mainstream support:
- Return on investment (ROI) - One of the first items when I think about ROI for the SQL Server 2008 platform is extending the life of the hardware. With the support for hot pluggable CPUs and SQL Server Resource Governor you have the ability to scale and segment the resources to enable SQL Server to grow with your business. To me this enables the organization to extend the life of the platform with the many hardware advances from various vendors.
- Third party application support - Many vendors have been working with Microsoft to ensure their products support as well as leverage the new SQL Server 2008 features. If your organization is dependent on many off the shelf products then it is necessary to ensure your third party vendors will support your platform moving forward. Service and support agreements can be expensive, so make sure your platform does not violate any portion of the agreement based on the software versions. If so, consider upgrading to not have an additional expense for extended support similar to the support needed with Microsoft.
- Contractual agreements, external partners and relationships - In some organizations, the decision to upgrade or perform development on a new platform is based on an external organization or contractual agreement. If that is the case in your organization, make sure you understand the ramifications before making a hard sell to your management. Your management may be on board, but you may need to ask them to work with the other party to get SQL Server 2008 approved as an acceptable database platform.
From a technology perspective, SQL Server 2008 has introduced not only enhancements to existing features, but also delivered new functionality with the release to include:
- Relational Engine
- Query guide support
- MERGE statement
- Change tracking support
- XML enhancements
- Backup stream and data storage compression
- Performance data collection
- Native auditing objects
- Integration Services
- Many new toolbox features
- Persistent lookups
- Improved threading
- Reporting Services
- Native Microsoft Word based rendering
- Eliminate IIS dependency
- Improved charting and graphing
- Analysis Services
- Star JOIN support
- Excel data mining interface
- Partition table parallelism
One item that has stood out to me is a comment from a client a few months ago who was looking to hire a full time SQL Server DBA. The comment they made was that they could not believe that anyone they were looking to hire was even looking at SQL Server 2008. They indicated that the candidates were all knowledgeable in SQL Server 2000 and some candidates had strong SQL Server 2005 skills. They were really surprised that no one had really taken the time to get some exposure to SQL Server 2008. The bottom line is that some employers are expecting candidates to be up on the latest and greatest technologies. This is a key item to keep in mind as you are job hunting.
When I look at this from both sides of the fence, I know that DBAs\Developers are busy and do not have time to research all of the latest and greatest technology when development deadlines are looming or systems are having issues. I think what is necessary is to strike some sort of balance and not be complacent. The reality is very few people have production exposure to SQL Server 2008 as of the writing of this tip, so you are lucky if you are one of the few. However, the masses have the opportunity to download, install and learn from the CTP's, online resources (web casts, online hosting, tips, articles, etc.) or local events (user groups, code camps, etc.). Just be sure to take the time to get some exposure and pull together a plan for yourself to learn about the latest and greatest features of SQL Server 2008 that are of interest to you and your organization.
- Take a step back and look at this list, then think about how it applies to your organization. See if it also gives you additional ideas behind upgrading your systems. If it does, be sure to keep those in the back of your mind as you talk to your team and management.
- Be sure to understand your management's view of upgrading or leveraging SQL Server 2008. Understanding their point of view on the situation may be essential in educating them on the benefits or may give you more insight into the company's goals.
- Even if your organization is not going to be upgrading immediately, be sure to read up on the technology, attend a local launch, web cast, user group meeting or code camps to keep your skills fresh and see how you can leverage the technology.
- Check out these resources as a means to get up to speed on SQL Server 2008:
- SQL Server 2008 - MERGE - More than UPSERT (more advanced uses)
- SQL Server 2008 - consume output from OUTPUT (directly)
- SQL Server 2008 Group By Sets
- SQL Server - The List of New Features
- SQL Server 2008 Data Compression including Backup Compression
- SQL Server 2008 - Did you know? Inline variable initialization and Compound assignment
- Are there other reasons why you are looking to upgrade to SQL Server 2008? We would like to know your motivation and the feedback from your team as well as the overall organization. Please post your insight into the situation in the forum below.
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